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MONGOL Report Summary

Project ID: 312397
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Israel

Final Report Summary - MONGOL (Mobility, Empire and Cross-Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia)

In the 13th century Chinggis Khan and his heirs created the largest continuous empire ever, an empire that at its height stretched from Korea to Hungary from Vietnam, Burma and Iraq to Siberia. The only way the nomadic Mongols were able to create and rule such a huge empire was by fully mobilizing the resources- both human and material- from the regions under their control. The formation of the empire, its continued expansion, the establishment of its administration, and later its dissolution therefore entailed a vast mobilization of people - followed by artifacts, techniques, institutions, texts and ideas - throughout the empire's territory and farther afield. And these movements have changed the world: This high measure of mobility constituted the first step towards robust cross-cultural exchanges - in fields as varied as science, art, trade and religion to name just a few. These led to a closer integration of the old world, contributed to the discovery of the new world, and triggered massive ethnic, religious and geo-political transformations. The enhanced connectivity created first a common imperial culture ― material, political, administrative ― across Eurasia, though with obvious regional variants, and second, relativism of knowledge and religions, promoted by the Mongols’ multi-cultural outlook. These, in turn, left a considerable imperial legacy to later polities, and helped shape the transition from the medieval to the early modern world.
The project has studied the impact of the Mongol Empire (1206-1368) on world history through the prism of mobility: It aimed to explain why, how, when, and to where people ideas and artifacts moved across Eurasia and what were the outcomes of these population movements.
Guided by "the humanistic approach to world history", namely combining world history perspective with close reading of primary sources in multiple languages (mainly Arabic, Persian and Chinese), as well as by insights of the social and life sciences, the project has created a sophisticated multi-lingual database for studying these movements. The database records information about people who were active in Mongol Eurasia, currently indexing 13,586 persons. This unique resource enables it to reconstruct various modes of pre-modern migrations (of captives, tribes, experts, missionaries etc) in/to various arenas (cities, regions, polities); aspects of economic and cultural transfers in various fields (astronomy, trade, religion), and the Empire's institutions (e.g. the army, guards, imperial sons in laws). Looking at the Empire in its full Eurasian context and underscoring the effects of the Mongols’ indigenous culture on the proto-global world of the 13th and 14th centuries, the project enables far deeper understanding of the social and cultural realities of Mongol Eurasia, of mechanisms of cross-cultural connections and transmission of knowledge, thereby illuminating the transition from the medieval to the early modern instigated by the Mongols' imperial enterprise.
The project was conducted by an international team- employing people from China, Japan, Korea, the US, the UK, Germany, Italy and Israel. It conducted two major conferences and seven smaller workshop, each including both established and emerging scholars as well as researchers from both East and West, thereby creating an international community of scholars of the Mongol Empire. It has resulted so far in more than 80 publications, mainly in English but also in Mongolian, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and Hebrew. Notable among them is the collection In the Service of the Khans: Elites in Transition in Mongol Eurasia (Asiatische Studien 71.4, December 2017). Moreover, quite a few volumes, books, as well as six dissertations are in the making. Training and grooming a considerable part of the next generation of the Mongol Empire’s scholars, and significantly contributing to the globalization of Mongolian studies worldwide, the project’s main legacy has been the study of the Mongol Empire in its own terms and full Eurasian context.

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